The Bookseller's blog

Endings and Beginnings

It reached 55 degrees yesterday and, after a long string of zero and sub-zero temperatures, our fingers are sufficiently thawed to make an entry in these notes. Not that the cold weather was unpleasant, mind you. The air and light were crisp and clear. The snow (and there is a lot of it!) was light and dry like talcum powder. Tires had good traction on packed snow. Fires burned reassuringly.  Everything hot tasted especially good. But, the hot tub froze solid notwithstanding the stock tank heater which worked most of the winter.

At 55 degrees the world is different. The snow has turned to slush and taken on a gray pallor. There is a sluggishness and weariness in the bones – a chill. The temperature dips overnight leaving trails of ice to challenge drivers and pedestrians alike. Theron took a full-body back flop on the way down to feed the chickens and has a kidney contusion and bruised ribs to show for it. Avalanches of heavy, wet snow cascade from the roof – usually just after the last batch has been cleared. But, 55 is 55 and what a pleasure to see the dogs lying outside in the sunlight exhausted from welcoming back the squirrels from their winter rest!
It would be remiss not to confess that we didn’t entirely stay put during that frigid stretch. Demaris headed into the Santa Cruz Mountains of California and spent two weeks in her tent while attending workshops with the Tom Brown Tracking School. She worked with wood, leather and soap stone while studying the philosophical underpinnings of living with the Earth within the confines of modern society. Theron spent two weeks in Madrid in deep immersion refreshing and advancing his Spanish language. Although immersion quickly became drowning when it came to the pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo and other exotic grammatical constructions. He wishes he had listened to Sister Mary Zoe sixty years ago!
 
Highlighting our exceedingly active Bayfield winter scene are the annual Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races through the snowfields and forests along the shores of Lake Superior. This year hundreds of dogs competed in a variety of classes up to and including the 8-dog, 80-mile feature event. Our stock of sled dog related books was quickly snapped-up – especially the children’s selection. We were pleased to have Jeff King – known as the “Winningest Musher in the World” and 4-time winner of the Alaskan Iditarod – sign our supply of his book Cold Hands, Warm Heart: Alaskan Adventures of an Iditarod Champion. Jeff also spoke at the Saturday night dinner at the pavilion between his Friday and Saturday race events.
 
Our staff remains deeply involved in community activities this winter especially in the dramatic arts. Kristen played the role of the Rovian propagandist, Squealer the pig, in Orwell’s Animal Farm. She is also working lights for Annie! which is now playing. Jack is ably handling the gargantuan task of Stage Manager for Annie! for which his well-honed executive skills are essential. Two of our stalwarts have moved on: Colin has journeyed west to Boise to seek his fortune and Lois has taken a position at Northland College as Director of Gift Planning. We miss them both!
 
Well, we have just finished our first full inventory of our collection of books as well as our small offering of maps, charts, games, puzzles and other items. We discovered this to be no mean task! Every single book and item was scanned, counted and returned to its place on the shelf. Every discrepancy was checked and rechecked. So, now the picture of our inaugural year is coming into focus and plans for the year to come are being laid. It was a good year! We have a great team! We have a great selection! We have a great customer base of local friends and neighbors as well as the very special stream of visitors who come to the Apostle Islands to enjoy this most beautiful of places.
 
Stay in touch! We enjoy hearing from you!           
 

A Very Special Solstice

There are special sounds during this Solstice time. Chief among them is the silence. The deep snow absorbs and muffles what little is broadcast in the forest. When the roads are plowed even the distant mechanized drone ceases. We think of the Ojibwe author of the Algic Researches whose name, Bae-Wa-Wa-Gee-Zhik-A-Quay, means “The Woman of the Sound Which Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky” and we listen for that rush in the diamond-studded firmament.

During the day there is that squeaky crunch as boots cross fresh, minus-zero snow under arm loads of true-split maple and oak. There is the satisfying tic-tic-tic-tic-tic as frozen 1x12 scraps are rent into one-inch sticks of kindling with the merest touch of the axe. The dogs galoomph into the snow banks. Cyrus submarines his huge black head under the snow and then heaves back to the surface in an explosion of white powder. Kia shakes her Miniature Husky head with disdain and invites more refined and elegant play with her sharp bark.
 
In rare occurrence the Winter Solstice this year coincided with the full lunar eclipse. Regrettably, the sky was shrouded with snow clouds and only vague hints of changing light were visible. We were interested by the fact that the last such coincidence occurred 456 years earlier just about the time that the first Europeans were moving into the Great Lakes. Same sun, same moon. Same air? Same earth? Same water? Wish we had taken better care of them!
 
Activity in the store is quiet, but steady. The book group has read One Thousand White Women and is moving on to The House of the Spirits and then A Death in the Family. Poetry resounds at the weekly workshop on Thursday nights. We had a wonderful event with New York Times Bestselling author Andrea Cremer (Nightshade) at Stagenorth a few nights ago. She is Ashland born and bred and has woven a sophisticated young-adult tale from her scholarship as an historian and an imagination fueled by her growing-up in these Northwoods. Next week we go classic with the Bayfield Chamber and Visitor Bureau’s "First Friday" themed an Old Fashion Night. Never a dull moment!
 
On a final note, our winter hours go into effect on January 2nd. We will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
 

And Now the Holidays...

Early snow and early cold! We’ve got about a foot up on the farm. The chickens have a little heater gizmo under their water tank and we’ve been gathering plenty of wood for our woodstoves. So, it’s winter and thoughts and efforts turn to the Holidays. Buy Local is our mantra! Just as our population swells in the summer, it shrinks in the winter. So as with the other Bayfield merchants Buy Local is critical.

Think about it. How many in-store author appearances has Amazon staged in Bayfield? How many people has Barnes & Noble employed in Bayfield? How much has Borders contributed to Bayfield community organizations? How much have all of the above collected in sales taxes to support public and social services in Bayfield? Remember, for every $100 a consumer spends local businesses give back $68 to their local economy – chain stores give back only $43.
 
This Friday, December 3rd, is the initial Bayfield First Friday event. Merchants will offer special deals and in-store activities and entertainment. Restaurants will be featuring exceptional menus and specials.  Starting this week from 5:00 - 7:00pm, this new opportunity to shop locally in the evening will be held year-round on the first Friday of every month.  Our bookshop will offer an author event and signing with Brett Champan and his new novel, Rearview Sunset. Noted local artist, France Austin Miller, will show some of her work and be available to talk about her exquisite Lake Superior water colors and the techniques that have informed her work. Light refreshments from Coco’s in Washburn will be served.
 
All day on Friday the 3rd only, we will offer a 20% discount on some of our favorite and most popular titles. Each would be great gift for someone on your list! Included will be: all of our William Kent Krueger titles, all of our Michael Perry titles, some of our Steig Larsson titles, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, Books and Islands by Louise Erdrich, The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, Burn by Nevada Barr, The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, Old Bear by Kevin Henkes, and more.
 
We will also be offering a variety of sales and specials for the last minute shoppers on Thursday, December 16th! We'll keep you posted.
 
Our in store book club is going strong, and the current book selection is One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus. The book club meets every other Tuesday and will be meeting again on Tuesday, December 14th. Don't forget members of our book club do receive 20% off the our book club titles.
 
Finally, just after Christmas we have the extraordinary pleasure to welcome New York Times bestseller and local Ashland born-and-bred author Andrea Cremer for a reading and signing of her smash debut novel Nightshade. Mark the date – Monday, December 27th – at Stagenorth in Washburn!   This event – a collaboration between Stagenorth and Apostle Islands Booksellers – will be the literary highlight of the season! Be there!

The Quieter Season Begins

Whew!  Bayfield’s Applefest has past!  This wonderful annual weekend street event draws some 50,000 visitors to our small city of 611.  This year the weather was perfect – clear and apple crisp – in contrast to last year’s wind and rain.  The crowd was festive and colorful.  Our quiet little bookshop offered a respite from the joyous cacophony of the music stages, Ojibwe drums, hawkers, carnival barkers and the general gaiety of the occasion.  In the countryside the harvest was good and the autumn leaves were at their peak of palette and luminescence.

At the same time Applefest marks the end of the summer/early fall seasons and, with that, a sense of nostalgia and vague discomfort.  What now?  Well, a fleeting moment of relief followed by an urgency to turn to the deferred tasks of firewood, snow removal equipment, storm windows and stocking-up.  For us it is a time of reckoning and reflection upon our inaugural season.  We did well, we think.  Our sales were robust.  Our relationships and social networks developed nicely.  Our business savvy grew from rookie to basic competence.  Our continued thanks to all (and many you are) who assisted us through this successful start-up phase.

Our attention turns now to our role as a community resource for our friends and neighbors in Bayfield County and its environs.  We continue to host author events.   New York Times best-selling author and dean of the Northwoods/Ojibwe Country murder mystery authors William Kent Krueger will join us for a reading and signing on Saturday afternoon, October 23rd.  That event is co-hosted with Big Water Café and Coffee Roasters across the street.  We are working to generate interest and participation in book groups, poetry workshops, language salons and discussion meetings.  We are reaching out to our local schools and libraries to find ways that we might mutually benefit from collaboration.  We invite and would welcome your ideas as to how the local, independent bookstore can make the most of its potential as a community builder.

Our little storefront saw a change in commercial tenants in each of the last three years and not infrequently before that.  But, we are here to stay!  We will be here through the winter and for the duration.  Please stay in touch and we look forward to seeing you here for snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, ice sailing, spelunking  at the ice caves, fishing through the ice and browsing in the cozy, quiet stacks of Apostle Islands Booksellers.  
          
 

Five Strikes and Counting

We're still up to bat and having a good season!

  Our last note was on the occasion of our opening nearly two months ago. Life has been frenetic since then - challenging, but gratifying. Learning the business and running the business has consumed our days and nights. The shop has filled with interesting people matching the interesting books that surround them. Lots of compliments on the space as well as the selection. Bottom-line - a success! The five strikes against us in our opening note - (1) book readership being generally down; (2) the big-box stores with their vast inventories and attractive pricing; (3) the on-line behemoth with its even vaster inventories and rock-bottom pricing; (4) the steady trickle to e-reading; and, (5) the economy being still in the doldrums - seem not to have been called against us yet. Here in the islands and the northwoods it seems a good book is still a great companion.  The nearest big-box is a couple of hours away. It's too late to order on-line. E-reading devices might not mix so well with sand, breaking waves, sailboats, kayaks, canoes, back-country trails, campfires, bicycle packs, rustic cabins and B & B's. And, a book is still a bargain in any economic circumstances - hour after hour of reading pleasure at pennies per hour. But, the umpire is still out! So much for that metaphor! 
 
We had a nice encounter last week. We had driven to Ely, Minnesota to drop our 12-year-old grandson for a two-week adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. During a last-minute outfitting stop at Piragi's, a couple approached us to say they'd very much enjoyed our store. Surprised and pleased to be recognized, we felt a bit star-struck. Turns out that they had recognized not us, but our miniature husky, Kia, who serves as the store mascot. She's become the real celebrity notwithstanding her shy demeanor!
 
We've had some notable visitors over the summer including David Wroblewski (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle), Michael Perry (Population 485, Truck, Coop), Thomas Peacock (Ojibwe: Waasa Inaabidaa, The Four Hills of Life : Ojibway Wisdom), Dennis McCann (Badger Boneyards), Howard Paap (A Northern Land, Raspberry River), Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and many others. Most notable, however, have been our day-to-day customers with stories of their visits to the islands and northwoods; their suggestions of titles that might be of interest to our clientele; and, their appreciation of good books in "a clean well-lighted place".

Opening Celebration and Ribbon Cutting!

It was a day of opening festivities on Thursday, May 27th! A beautiful day – sunny, warm, light breeze. The store was filled to capacity and then emptied out onto Rittenhouse Avenue for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. Bayfield Mayor Larry MacDonald presided in top hat and tails, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cari Obst gave us a warm welcome, and we expressed our gratitude to our many collaborators who were key to getting us up and running.

Store on Rittenhouse AveWe have been blessed with powerful human resources. First and foremost, we thank Richard and Carol Avol of Chequamegon Books and Coffee in Washburn who provided immeasurable guidance, expertise, encouragement and support. Then, our stalwart opening staff, Kristen Sandstrom and Collin Leino, whose combination of brains, brawn and experience made our May 21st opening possible. We are grateful that Jack Beagan, Lois Albrecht and Joe Defoe have joined us to round out our sales staff.

We agree with the comments of many visitors that the space is especially warm and attractive – a real book shop. That would not have been the case without the efforts of our realtor Gennifer Reed of Reed Realty and our architect/designer Jill Lorenz. Jim Wargin and his crew did a magnificent job with the remodel. The oak bookcases are a work of art and made all the more so thanks to Tessa Levens’ superb finishing work. The hardwood floors, salvaged from beneath layers of carpet and linoleum and years of neglect, were beautifully brought back to life by Jim Wargin, Ron Vanderploeg and their crews. Electric, plumbing and heating were expertly handled by Anderson Electric, Ed’s Mechanical and Jeff Pipgras respectively. We are grateful to them all.

Bob Holton! Bob Holton! Great Artist-in-Residence! His indescribable work on the winter windows, the children’s mural and nook, the trompe d’oeil vent enclosure, the stovepipe owl, the exterior trim, and the show window designs truly define the spirit of the shop. To say “Thank You” is not enough!

Michelle McCumber, our IT guru, has coped with our own technical limitations with swift competence and high humor. Kathy Wendling’s website design and construction gracefully expresses the aesthetic of Apostle Islands Booksellers.

All in all, working with this team has been a great pleasure and rewarding experience. Without each one, the shop would fall short of our highest expectations. With each one, it has exceeded them.

This summer we are open seven days a week from 8am to 9pm. We look forward to seeing many of you very soon.

Open for Business! Apostle Islands Booksellers, Bayfield, Wisconsin

Apostle Islands Booksellers is now open!

Our due diligence into the locally-owned, independent bookstore business revealed the following:

  • Generally, book readership is down;
  • Big Box stores can stock more books and sell them for less;
  • Your behemoth on-line retailer stock almost everything and send it out for almost nothing;
  • E-Readership is growing;
  • The economy lingers in the doldrums.

In the face of those five strikes against us, today we opened the Apostle Islands Booksellers in the heart of historic downtown Bayfield, Wisconsin. The sun is shining, there is a light breeze, the quiet rumble of the Madeline Island Ferry softens the silence, and the islands stretch out into the horizon.

Our shelves are stocked with a heavy emphasis toward the Apostle Islands, the Chequamegon Region, Lake Superior, the Great Lakes, Ojibwe Country and the Northwoods. We also carry a substantial stock of general titles – both fiction and non-fiction – geared to the interests of our friends and neighbors in Bayfield, Washburn and Ashland and to the many visitors who journey to this special place throughout the year. We have daily and weekly periodicals ranging from the Bayfield County Journal to the New York Times as well as a variety of gifts, games, puzzles, maps, charts and other accessories.

So, back to those five strikes. A wag once said that the second book to come off of the Gutenberg printing press was a book on the demise of the book business! We worry about the choice of product title for the Kindle. We all know what kindling is for – to start fires!  Was it a not-so-subtle challenge to the existence of the book itself? Ray Bradbury anticipated that with Fahrenheit 451 in 1953. We remember how the readers in his story responded!

And so we respond in kind and against all odds our doors open today and welcome readers of all ages, interests and tastes. We believe that books are here to stay!

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - The Bookseller's blog